Saturday, 19 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continue with the exhortation of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, as he tackled on the issue of the resurrection from the dead, both of the Lord’s own glorious Resurrection and also the belief that all the faithful would share in this resurrection after their death. Some segments of the community of believers disagreed with this and found it hard to believe in the resurrection.

That was why St. Paul went into great detail and with effort trying to explain the significance of resurrection and how it will truly happen for all the faithful, as the consequences of Christ’s sacrifice and death on the Cross, and through the revelation of the words of truth and the Holy Spirit that had been passed down to them and to the Church. This was made particularly against those who argued that there was no life after death.

Regardless of the reason why they did not believe in the resurrection after death, or any life after death, this refusal to believe in such a fact usually leads to the attitude of excesses and overindulging in life, as one would then believe that the earthly life was the only thing they had and nothing else, and this led one to sin and to be tempted away from the path of righteousness and into wickedness and evil, excesses and indulgence in life and in worldly pleasures.

The Lord has called us all to believe in Him and to reject these false ways and the desire to seek worldly pleasures in life. That is why He has called those Apostles and disciples through whom He has revealed His truth, and sowed the seeds of faith among innumerable people throughout history, through the Church. And this is aptly summarised in our Gospel passage today by the parable of the sower, in which the Lord sowed in the hearts of His faithful, the seeds of His faith.

This very well-known parable tells us of the seeds that is sowed by the sower, representing the Lord Himself, that fell on different places and had completely different outcomes depending on where they had landed, mainly because of the varying conditions experienced by the seeds in those places. The Lord used this parable to explain and convey His intentions because many among the people of the time were farmers, and many others would have also understood the terms used.

The seeds represent God’s truth and words, the faith which He has sowed, into the world, and which we have received. But we see how the seeds that fell on the roadside did not even have a chance to germinate and grow, as they were snatched and eaten up by the birds of the air. And this is how those who have rejected the words of God and His truth, and all these were snatched away from them, and they had nothing in them, no faith and no salvation.

Meanwhile, as we heard, those seeds that fell on the rocky ground germinated and grew, but was unable to grow deep and strong roots to keep themselves alive and in good health. This represents those who have indeed received the word of God, but put it aside and did not take it seriously, treating it without honour and are instead being busy with other things in life, and hence, the truth of God failed to take root in their lives, and did not remain in them.

And those seeds that fell on the soil where there were lots of thorns and bushes, weeds and other competitor plants, while the seeds did germinate and grow well, but they failed to grow properly and eventually perished because the budding plants were choked by those weeds and rivals that grew all around them. These represent those who did receive the truth of God, and believed, and yet, allowed temptations to get the better of them, and failed in their faith.

Only those seeds that fell on the rich soil which can germinate and grow well, healthy and good that they bore very rich fruits, many times fold of what had been planted in the first place. Those seeds were the only ones that were successful, and thus, that is what is the fate of those who have received the word of God, His truth, embraced them, believed wholeheartedly, and did what they could to provide the best and most optimum condition for the growth of their faith.

And how do we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is by practicing our faith sincerely, walking with faith and devotion, by showing love in each and every moments of our lives following the examples that the Lord Himself had shown us, and which His disciples had also showed in their own lives and in their dedication in service to Him. The Lord had revealed to us His love, and His truth, and all of these are things that we should keep in mind as we progress forward in life.

As long as we allow ourselves be tempted and swayed by worldly pleasures and all sorts of temptations in life, it is likely going to be difficult for us to grow in faith and to grow in our love and devotion for God, just as those seeds that fell on the wrong places failed to grow and perish, because they did not have the right and optimum conditions to grow well in. This is also why, we should look upon the life and examples set by St. Januarius, the holy martyr and Bishop of Beneventum or Benevento in southern Italy and the patron saint of the Italian city of Naples, whose feast day we celebrate today.

St. Januarius, also known in Italian as San Gennaro, was a popular saint who was remembered chiefly for the miraculous occasion of the liquefaction of the relic of his blood which happens on his feast days and on some special occasions. He was born into an influential noble family and eventually rose to become Bishop of Naples and in some accounts also the Bishop of Benevento, both in southern parts of Italy.

This happened during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who was infamous as the Emperor during whose reign the last great systematic persecutions against Christians were carried out, causing many martyrs and countless members of the faithful to suffer from those persecutions. It was told that St. Januarius was a dedicated bishop, who committed himself to the care of his flock, and despite the terrible persecutions that grew worse each day, he hid many of his flock from their persecutors during those dark years.

It was not long that St. Januarius himself was arrested, while in the midst of his visit to the Christian convicts in prison, and he together with some other Christians were martyred, in some accounts by beheading. Thus, this faithful bishop and committed servant of God, who loved both God and his fellow brothers and sisters, chose to remain faithful to the very end, and even suffer rather than to betray his faith in God.

And the actions showed by St. Januarius ought to inspire us, for despite the obvious risks that he had to take in reaching out to his suffering flock, he did so nonetheless, caring for their needs, visiting those in prison and endangering himself while doing so, as a sign of his genuine love and therefore, authentic and genuine Christian faith. This is what we are also called to do, brothers and sisters, to be genuine as Christians in our way of life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice in the memory of St. Januarius today, let us all discern carefully what it is that we can do in our daily lives in loving God, through our dedication and faith, through our righteous life, and in our love for our fellow brethren, that each and every one of us truly provide the best condition for our faith to grow, that these seeds of faith we have received from God may grow well, and bear rich and bountiful fruits in the end, that is the crown of glory and eternal life with God.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us in our resolve to live our lives with faith from now on. May He give us the courage to walk in His presence day by day, with ever greater devotion and commitment, to be true to our faith in all things. St. Januarius, holy servant of God and martyr of the faith, pray for us all! Amen.

Saturday, 19 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Luke 8 : 4-15

At that time, as a great crowd gathered, and people came to Jesus from every town, He began teaching them with a story : “The sower went out to sow the seed. And as he sowed, some of the seed fell along the way, was trodden on, and the birds of the sky ate it up.”

“Some seed fell on rocky ground; and no sooner had it come up than it withered, because it had no water. Some seed fell among thorns; the thorns grew up with the seed and choked it. But some seed fell on good soil and grew, producing fruit, a hundred times as much!” And Jesus cried out, “Listen then, if you have ears to hear!”

The disciples asked Him, “What does this story mean?” And Jesus answered, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God. But to others it is given in the form of stories, or parables, so that, seeing, they may not perceive; and hearing, they may not understand.”

“Now, this is the point of the parable : The seed is the word of God. Those along the wayside are people who hear it; but immediately, the devil comes and takes the word from their minds, for he does not want them to believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are people who receive the word with joy; but they have no root; they believe for a while, and give way in time of trial.”

“Among the thorns are people who hear the word, but, as they go their way, they are choked by worries, riches, and the pleasures of life; they bring no fruit to maturity. The good soil, instead, are people who receive the word, and keep it, in a gentle and generous mind, and, persevering patiently, they bear fruit.”

Saturday, 19 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 55 : 10, 11-12, 13-14

My enemies turn back when I call on You for help; now I know, that God is for me.

In God, Whose word I praise; in God I trust, without fear. What can mortals do against me?

I am bound to You by vows, o God; I shall offer my thanksgiving. For You have rescued my soul from death and my feet from stumbling; that I might walk in God’s presence, in the light of the living.

Saturday, 19 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

1 Corinthians 15 : 35-37, 42-49

Some of you will ask : How will the dead be raised? With what kind of body will they come? You fools! What you sow cannot sprout unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body of the future plant, but a bare grain of wheat or any other seed.

It is the same with the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in decomposition; it will be raised never more to die. It is sown in humiliation, and it will be raised for glory. It is buried in weakness, but the resurrection shall be with power. When buried, it is a natural body, but it will be raised as a spiritual body. For there shall be a spiritual body, as there is, at present, a living body. Scripture says that Adam, the first man, became a living being; but the last Adam has become a life-giving Spirit.

The Spirit does not appear first, but the natural life, and afterward comes the Spirit. The first man comes from the earth and is earthly, while the second One comes from heaven. As it was with the earthly one, so is it with the earthly people. As it is with Christ, so with the heavenly. This is why, after bearing the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the Heavenly One.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the Scripture passages, we are called to reflect on the nature of our life, and how we should go about in living our lives. Our life is not just about us, or about our preoccupations in this world, all the temptations and things we possess. Rather, our lives must be based on the foundation of faith, hope and love, the three greatest virtues of our Christian lives.

In this world, we are always subjected to ever changing expectations and demands, as well as diverging customs and ways, and that was why, in the Gospel passage today, the Lord showed His dissatisfaction at the people, whose lack of the Christian virtues troubled Him, in how they treated Him and the prophets, including that of St. John the Baptist. They refused to listen to the word of God and the truth delivered to them, and instead made biased judgments on those whom the Lord had sent to save them.

The Lord however showed that the way forward for us, is not to depend on the ever changing and therefore unreliable judgments and ways of this world. To the world, there is never a satisfactory standard, as different people judge based on their own individual expectations and personal standards, and that was why, what was good for someone might be bad for another, and vice versa.

Instead, the Lord wants us to have this firm foundation of faith, of hope, and of love, as the core tenets of our lives. Faith refers to our commitment to God, and our belief in Him, in His salvation and in His saving help. Meanwhile, hope refers to the hope which we have in God’s love, in His coming deliverance and in the promise which He has made, to all of us who has kept our faith in Him, that He will grant us eternal life and glory with Him.

But all of these, as mentioned in the first reading today, in the Epistle that St. Paul wrote to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, are nothing if not based upon the foundation of the most important virtue of all, that is love. For love is the very reason for the faith and hope which we have in God. We believe in God’s love, and that is our faith, and correspondingly, we also hope for His love. The love of God is at the centre and the focus of our lives.

And from God, love has come into our lives, and we know love because God has given us His love. And love is truly the only constant in our lives, which is universal. It does not matter where we are, in whichever communities or places, love, and that is, true love, is always the same, the selfless giving of oneself and the genuine, compassionate care which one shows to another person.

Without love, then all the things we do in life are empty, meaningless. For first of all, as man, all of us exist fo the greater glory of God, to praise and worship Him Who has created us and loved us. Without God’s love, none of us would have existed. Without His love, we would have fallen into the eternal damnation because of our sins and wickedness. It was because of His love, that God sent us our Saviour, His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, through Whom, He has released us from our bondage to our sins.

And it is love that makes the world move again, despite all the challenges and difficulties we mankind have encountered for countless millennia and ages. Through all the bitter trials and years of wars, conflicts, all sorts of destructions, it was love that eventually overcame all the bitterness, pain, hatred and sufferings. Indeed, there were many moments when vengeance, hatred, jealousy and all sorts of negative emotions have threatened to overcome us, but eventually love triumphed, again and again.

Without love, there can therefore be no faith, and no hope, and mankind would have always remained bitter forever. It is the warmth of love in our hearts that transformed us mankind from the people of darkness and wickedness that we were, into the people of light, and God’s beloved children. This is what each and every one of us as Christians have been called to, to be like God in all things, especially in love.

Because God is Love, and all of us who belong to God should therefore have love in our lives, in every actions we take and in everything we say and do. And today, we should follow the example of one of His saints, whose life and works were epitome of practicing love in our actions and life. And that saint is St. Januarius, Bishop of Benevento during the time of the Roman persecutions.

St. Januarius, also known as San Gennaro, was remembered for his great piety and dedication to his flock, and his commitment to the Lord became a great source of inspiration even long after he has passed away. His courageous defence of his faith and love for God allowed him to endure the sufferings and the bitterness of the great persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, infamous for its brutality and cruelty.

It was love that allowed St. Januarius to continue to be faithful despite all the challenges he had to encounter, the love for God and for his flock. He chose to endure the bitter sufferings of persecution, rather than to betray the Lord he loved, or to scandalise the faith which would end up in causing his flock to be lost to the faith and fall into hell.

To that extent, God glorified St. Januarius with the gift of His grace, that by his martyrdom and courageous display of faith, he was made saint of the Church, and with a very tangible and visible sample of holiness, by the means of the relic of his blood, which miraculously liquifies during the day of his feast, which is today.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, inspired by the courage and faith, and foremost of all, the love which St. Januarius showed us all, let us all as Christians therefore turn ourselves towards God with a renewed faith, hope and love in Him. Let us all devote our time, attention and love for Him, each and every days of our life, and not to forget our fellow brethren, in caring for the needs of those who need our love and attention, and more.

May the Lord bless us all and remain with us. May He continue to love us and bless us, each and every days of our life. Let us all be renewed and become, from now on, true disciples and followers of God, the One Who is Love and perfect in love. Amen.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 7 : 31-35

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “What comparison can I use for the people? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace, about whom their companions complain, ‘We piped you a tune and you would not dance; we sang funeral songs and you would not cry.'”

“Remember John : he did not ear bread or drink wine, and you said, ‘He has an evil spirit.’ Next, came the Son of Man, eating and drinking; and you say, ‘Look, a glutton for food and wine, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But the children of Wisdom always recognise her work.”

Wednesday, 19 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 32 : 2-3, 4-5, 12 and 22

Give thanks to YHVH on the harp and lyre, making melody and chanting praises. Amid loud shouts of joy, sing to Him a new song and play the ten-stringed harp.

For upright is YHVH’s word and worthy of trust is His work. YHVH loves justice and righteousness; the earth is full of His kindness.

Blessed is the nation whose God is YHVH – the people He has chosen for His inheritance. O YHVH, let Your love rest upon us, even as our hope rests in You.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

1 Corinthians 12 : 31 – 1 Corinthians 13 : 13

Be that as it may, set your hearts on the most precious gifts, and I will show you a much better way.

If I could speak all the human and Angelic tongues, but had no love, I would only be sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, knowing secret things, with all kinds of knowledge, and had faith great enough to remove mountains, but had no love, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I had to the poor, and even give up my body to be burnt, if I am without love, it would be of no value to me.

Love is patient, kind, without envy. It is not boastful or arrogant. It is not ill-mannered, nor does it seek its own interest. Love overcomes anger and forgets offences. It does not take delight in wrong, but rejoices in truth. Love excuses everything, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love will never end. Prophecies may cease, tongues be silent and knowledge disappear. For knowledge grasps something of the truth and prophecy as well. And when what is perfect comes, everything imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I thought and reasoned like a child, but when I grew up, I gave up childish ways. Likewise, at present, we see dimly, as in a mirror, but, then, it shall be face to face. Now, we know, in part, but then I will know as I am known. Now, we have faith, hope and love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.

Friday, 19 September 2014 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we hear about the followers of Jesus, and in particular, the women who followed Jesus through His ministry, some of them, who were once sinners such as Mary Magdalene, healed from her affliction of seven demons, and the wife of Herod’s steward. There were of course other women that also accompanied Jesus which were not included in what we heard today in the Gospel.

Then in the first reading today, in the letter which St. Paul wrote to the faithful and the Church in Corinth, in which he highlighted the belief in the resurrection of Jesus and why those who believe in it will not be disappointed, but will indeed receive their rich rewards at the end, when the Lord comes again in glory to save His people and bring them into the eternal glory of heaven.

Our Lord had shown us the way to escape the trap and the dangers of death, through His own glorious resurrection from the dead. He who had given up His life through suffering, bearing the weight of our sins and our original sins, had opened up a new hope and a new path for us by His rising from the dead. If Christ had indeed remained dead as other men do, then there is no hope for us. But as the facts showed it, that Christ is truly risen, and the proof is none other than in the Church.

For our Church and our faith was founded on Christ Himself, and on the truth of His resurrection from the dead, such that He had triumphed against death and evil forevermore. And upon this solid foundation the Church had remained strong even against numerous assaults and attacks the evil one had marshalled against it through the world.

The holy women who followed Jesus had forsaken their old lives of sin, and they embraced the faith in Jesus, that they placed their trust in the Saviour of all. They followed Him as they knew that He is the One who would save them from their fate that was death and brought them into a new life in God. And that was what Jesus exactly had done unto them, as He brought them from the depths of their sins into new life filled with the joy and love of Christ.

And those who placed their trust in Jesus will not be disappointed indeed, for He had promised all His faithful ones, that He will raise all of us up on the last day, when He will judge us among the righteous ones and receive our due reward. God never disappoints, brethren, because it is in fact we are the ones who always disappoint our Lord, through our rebelliousness and disobedience, and through our unwillingness to listen to Him.

Today, we also celebrate the feast of St. Januarius, a bishop and martyr of the faith, whose life and examples would truly inspire us to put our trust in the Lord and believe in Him totally and completely without any doubt. St. Januarius, also known as San Gennaro, was the Bishop of the Diocese of Naples, which covers the modern day city of Naples, and the famous devotion to his miraculous event takes place there every year.

At the Cathedral of Naples, there exists a holy relic of St. Januarius, which consists of a vial filled with his blood, which has congealed and hardened throughout the long time since his death over seventeen centuries ago. This vial of blood liquefies exactly at every celebration of the saint’s feast day, that is this day, the nineteenth day of September.

St. Januarius himself lived during the late era Roman Empire, at the time when being a faithful is difficult, as challenges and persecutions against them were rampant. Nevertheless, St. Januarius continued to faithfully serve His beloved people, and guided them as their shepherd on their way towards their loving Lord and God. He lived on through the worst years of what is to be known as the Diocletian persecutions, after the Emperor who had persecuted the people of God at that time.

St. Januarius continued to minister to the people of God, even those who had been imprisoned, despite the obvious dangers to himself. He did them out of his great love for God and for His sheep, who had been entrusted to his care as the Bishop. He was indeed eventually captured and imprisoned, and then martyred for his faith. Indeed, though, the Lord never abandons those who are faithful to Him, as He granted this holy and devoted man a place in heaven, and miracles abounded after his death through his holy relics.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples of St. Januarius remind us to keep our faith strongly in the Lord and make sure that we practice them in our lives, despite whatever the world is plotting against us. St. Januarius showed us that as the faithful ones of God, we should be courageous in proclaiming our faith in the Lord Jesus, the One and True God, who had died for us and through whose resurrection He had made us whole once again.

May Almighty God therefore continue to bless us this day, and strengthen our faith, so that we may walk in the footsteps of St. Januarius and the other holy saints, in following Jesus our Lord and Saviour, bringing the Good News of salvation to many, so that they too can be saved and together, with all the saints and angels of heaven, praise our Lord together as one people, and one Church. Amen.

Friday, 19 September 2014 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 8 : 1-3

Jesus walked through towns and countryside, preaching and giving the Good News of the kingdom of God. The Twelve followed Him, and also some women, who had been healed of evil spirits and diseases : Mary called Magdalene, who had been freed of seven demons; Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward; Suzanna, and others who provided for them out of their own funds.